Your little girl is growing up. It seems like she was just a toddler, happily climbing on your lap and always reaching for a hug. Whether she was a little princess or a tomboy, she was, and is, your little girl. But, now she is changing in front of you. All at once it seems she is growing breasts, turning curvy and her moods go up and down, sometimes in a matter of minutes.
Girls typically have early signs of puberty sometime between the ages of 8 and 10 years old. They usually get their first period between 11 and 13 years old, although some girls start as early as 9 years old or as late as 16 years. Your daughter will look to you for information, advice and how to cope with the changes that occur through puberty.
Here are 10 things you need to know:
You should talk to your daughter, early and often, about puberty and the changes she will experience. This is an exciting and confusing time for young girls. They are excited because this signals "growing up," but it is confusing and scary at the same time. The more comfortable you are discussing puberty and sexuality, the more your daughter will understand she shouldn’t be embarrassed or afraid. If you find it difficult to talk about these issues, buy a book about puberty and use that as a guide. Be sure she knows she can come to you to discuss any concerns.
Puberty and sexual health have a language all their own. Over the next few years, through sex ed classes at school, from books and from friends, your daughter is going to hear a lot of new words, such as menstruation, puberty, vagina. These are all words you already know but your daughter may be confused over some of the meanings. Be sure to use the correct terminology when talking to her about what changes to expect.
Your daughter might notice yellow or white stains on her panties from a discharge. This is normally and is the body’s way of moisturizing the vagina. The discharge can begin anywhere from 6 to 18 months before menstruation.
Physical changes appear suddenly, over a few weeks or can develop slowly. Besides menstruation, some of the physical changes to expect are: growth spurt, changes in body shape, breast development, body odor, acne, hair growth in pubic area, legs and underarms.
Besides the physical changes, your daughter’s moods will change. She might be easily frustrated, angry or feel sad for no apparent reason. The emotional changes are sometimes the most difficult for young girls to understand. They can explain and see the physical changes but the emotional changes are more difficult, they may come on suddenly and your daughter can’t explain why she feels a certain way. At some point, every girl has said, "I don’t know why I am crying"
Boys, other girls or both, are suddenly more interesting in a romantic sense. Where just a few months ago, scenes of kissing or romantic gestures were considered weird or "yucky," they now hold immense interest. She might start daydreaming about relationships and romance. She might develop an intense crush.
Your daughter needs to take showers on a daily basis and may need to use deodorant/anti-perspirant. Puberty brings with it body odor. Your daughter will probably sweat more than she did before. The oil glands in the body also become more active and your duaghter may notice that her face and hair are greasy. Talk to your daughter about the importance of daily hygiene.
Prepare by having supplies at home. If you no longer use pads, or are a single-father household, buy some pads to have on hand. Go over how to use the pads so your daughter feels more comfortable should her first period come when you are not around. Let her know the nurse at school always has pads available. Keep a few pads in your car. Your daughter will be less scared of this "big moment" if she knows what to do.
Remind your daughter that every body shape and size is different. Some of her friends may develop large breasts, some may have much smaller ones. Some may have tiny waists and others thicker around the middle. Let her know that each body is exactly as it should be, there is no "right" or "wrong" breast size. Remind her she is beautiful as she is.
Your daughter needs reassurance that all the changes she is experiencing are normal. If she is entering puberty earlier than her friends, she might feel like she no longer fits in or simply feel "different." Let her know that puberty is normal and that all her friends will be going through the same thing over the next couple of years. If your daughter is starting puberty later, she might feel the same types of things or think there is something wrong with her. Again, reassure her that puberty starts around the same time but there is no "set" time for it to begin. Anything up to age 16 is considered normal.
"Girls and Puberty," 2007, Staff Writer, Department of Health, Australia
"Puberty 101 for Parents," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Planned Parenthood
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.